Survival rates for patients being treated for a rare type of cancer in Plymouth are greater than anywhere else in the country, thanks to a specialist team providing early access to drugs and emerging treatments through clinical trials.
Professor Simon Rule, Professor of Haematology at the University of Plymouth and Consultant Haematologist at University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust (UHPNT), leads the only specialist clinic in Europe, which is based at UHPNT.
Mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) is a cancer of white blood cells, which help the body to fight infection. It is a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which develops in the lymph glands. Each year around 500 people are diagnosed with MCL in the UK.
“Because we have developed this dedicated service, adopting innovative treatments and running clinical trials, we receive referrals from all over the country, with patients even travelling from overseas in order to see us,” explains Professor Rule, who is based in the University’s Institute of Translational and Stratified Medicine (ITSMed). “We have been the first in the world to treat patients with new drugs on a number of occasions, years before they become available elsewhere, so our patients greatly benefit from this.”In a paper recently published by the British Journal of Haematology (doi: 10.1111/bjh.15696) the outcomes for patients treated for MCL at University Hospitals Plymouth are compared with an equivalent UK population in a comparative area. Plymouth patients are shown to be living, on average, twice as long as the general population. This is likely to be a result of their involvement in clinical trials, for roughly 60% of patients receiving treatment at Derriford Hospital are enrolled on to at least one clinical trial, compared to only 9% elsewhere in the country.
Lead author of the study Dr Rory McCulloch, also part of the Haematology department at UHPNT and researcher at the University of Plymouth, said:
“Advances in cancer therapies over the past ten years have been remarkable, and by running so many clinical trials in Plymouth, our patients have access to emerging drugs and treatments before they become available on the NHS. We’re delighted to see the benefit our patients are receiving.”
Margaret Sandey, from Plymouth, was diagnosed with MCL in 2008 and puts her current 'lovely quality of life' down to taking part in a clinical trial at Derriford Hospital.
“When I was first diagnosed, I was told that the life expectancy was only possibly two to three years. I started taking Ibrutinib and now everything is fine. Eleven years later and I’ve been clear for seven years. There were no side effects from taking the drug and no chemotherapy was needed. I’m so very fortunate - it just means everything. My experience of the care at Derriford has simply been amazing. I can’t fault it, nor thank everybody enough. The team are fantastic, just like members of the family, and thanks to them I’m still able to go on holiday and live life to the full.”Another MCL patient, Jonathan (‘Jonty’) White, from Salcombe, added:
“I’ve always felt in incredibly safe hands, knowing that I’m getting the very best care I can get. Having any type of cancer is scary, but it’s such a comfort to know I’m seeing a team who are probably the best in the world at what they do. If you have MCL, this is definitely the place to be. We are so lucky that Simon and his team decided to set up the clinic here in Devon! I now lead a completely normal life, and I’m feeling pretty positive about the future.”
Dr Gary Minto, Director of Research, Development and Innovation at University Hospitals Plymouth, said:
“The outcomes of the MCL clinic are a credit to the whole haematology service and testify to excellent clinical care. We know that patient survival rates here are right up with the best in the world for this disease, and that’s because research provides access to new drugs and treatments, often years before they are available on the NHS.”
The University of Plymouth and UHPNT are currently running another MCL trial, using drug Ibrutinib, called ENRICH. This trial is run by the UKCRC registered Peninsula Clinical Trials Unit at the University of Plymouth.